How Labour Governs. Vere Gordon Childe 1923
THE Labour view of democracy which has been explained in Chapter 1 implies the formulation of a policy for the Parliamentarians by the Party as a whole and, to ensure its proper execution, a control of the politicians by the Movement outside Parliament was also found to be required. To fulfil these two objects an elaborate extra-Parliamentary organisation of the Party was inevitable. The unit of this organisation is the league in each electorate. These leagues are more than ad hoc committees such as every political party establishes for election purposes. They have not only the power of selecting the candidate to bear Labour's banner in the electorate; they also appoint delegates to the State Conference of the Party, and have the right to send along to that Assembly proposals for the amendment of the platform and other recommendations respecting the Party's policy and direction. Every voter resident in the electorate who pays a small subscription, and pledges himself not to vote against the selected Labour candidate, is eligible for membership. He thus can obtain a share in determining the Party's policy; for the league meets periodically and any member may initiate proposals to be sent on to the Conference.
Conference meets annually in the Southern States and triennially in Queensland. In the former it is composed of delegates from the leagues together with representatives of the affiliated unions. In the north the latter have only secured separate representation since 1916. In the interval between Conferences its authority is exercised by an Executive. The management of the Party funds, details of organising work, and the endorsement of candidates are in the hands of the latter body. For the management of the Federal Party an Inter-State Conference, consisting of six delegates, each selected by the State Conferences, meets at least once every three years. It draws up the Federal platform, and generally deals with subjects that come within the scope of the Commonwealth Parliament, considering, as a rule, only propositions emanating from one of the State Conferences. An Inter-State Executive has been established only since 1915. It is composed of two delegates chosen by each of the State Conferences, but, chiefly owing to the enormous distances separating the several State capitals, it scarcely functions. Moreover, it has no separate funds under its control, the conduct of the Federal elections being still reserved to the State Executives, which also retain the exclusive right of endorsing the candidates for the Federal Parliament who run in their respective States.
We have already seen how the organisation of the Party outside Parliament was in N.S.W. obliged to exercise a control over the members of the Legislature. The exercise of the rights thus vindicated for Conference and the Executive has often been found necessary since then. The Parliamentary representative of the workers tends to set himself up as a leader and to claim the right to neglect the recommendations of Conference, and even the sacred platform itself in accordance with his interpretation of the interests of the Party which is frequently determined by considerations of personal safety and mere political expediency. This is plainly contrary to the Labour theory of self-government, and has to be checked by the exercise of the authority of the governing organs of the Party. The fact is that, possessed of a substantial salary, a gold pass on the railways and other privileges, and surrounded with the middle-class atmosphere of Parliament, the workers' representative is liable to get out of touch with the rank and file that put him in the Legislature, and to think more of keeping his seat and scoring political points than of carrying out the ideals he was sent in to give effect to. Thus conflicts between the politicians and the organised Labour Movement have been fairly frequent. In cases of downright defiance the Executive can resort to the expedient of refusing endorsement to the recalcitrant at the next election, thus preventing him from running as a Labour candidate. This was the method by which Joseph Cook and his followers were got rid of in 1894. Revolts of the politicians ending in their expulsion or desertion from the Party have been fairly common in most States.
Queensland had such an experience in 1905. In the previous year the Party had agreed to enter a Coalition Ministry, and Kidston, a Labour M.L.A., was chosen to represent the Party as Treasurer in the new Government. The State Conference met in 1905 and reaffirmed Plank XL of their platform – “Immediate Cessation of the Sale of Crown Lands.” This plank was an integral part of the Party's policy which aimed ultimately at the abolition of all freeholds and the substitution therefore of perpetual leaseholds. Conference therefore determined that compliance with this plank should be a condition of further support for the Coalition by the Labour Party. At the same meeting a new Socialist objective was adopted. The Labour Treasurer was not prepared to enforce Plank XL, which was unpopular, while the sale of Crown Lands brought in a substantial revenue. Therefore he left the Party, putting forward as his pretext the new objective. The Party still gave regular support to the Government, of which Kidston soon became the head; for Labour could hardly support the extreme Tory opposition, the only alternative.
But in 1907 Conference reaffirmed its decision in regard to the enforcement of Plank XL in opposition to the wishes of George Kerr, the new Parliamentary Leader. He, too, thereupon deserted the Party along with eighteen other members, twelve of whom were rewarded for their treachery by losing their seats at the next election. Some sentences from the Presidential Address of Mat Reid at the 1907 Conference are worth quoting as a commentary on these events. After condemning opportunism in the rank and file of the Party, he proceeded:
“Opportunism will always produce Opportunists. Once you allow the politician to boss the show, he will give away everything to save himself, because he believes himself indispensable to the show, and in fact ends by becoming the show himself, and making a holy show of the rest of us. The supposed strong point made by the defaulters is their practical achievement of something in our time . . . legislating up to public opinion as all politicians do. But no party worthy of the name of Labour will follow public opinion; it will make and mould it.”
After this first disillusionment, and the warning given by the fate of the “rats,” the Party in Queensland has preserved a remarkable solidarity. For instance, it alone stood united on the Conscription issue, suffering only one desertion.
In N.S.W., although disillusionment soon came to the rank and file, no actual split took place between 1894 and 1916. The Movement tolerated, albeit not without impatient protest, the obvious determination of the Parliamentary leaders to set the rank and file at defiance. This was probably attributable to the unwillingness of the Party to sacrifice the services of such brilliant men as W. A. Holman. They tried instead to make him and his colleagues subservient to the general will of the Party, and a long record of bitter disputes and wrangles testifies to the vanity of the attempt.
The question of alliances may serve as an illustration of the tendencies of this struggle. In its early days the Party had adopted the role of a third party bargaining for concessions. When, however, Federation removed the fiscal question beyond the realm of State politics, the only real issue that kept apart the two old parties had disappeared, and Labour could no longer hold the balance of power and extort concessions thereby. To achieve their aims they must hope to reach the Treasury Benches. Labour, therefore, took on it the functions of direct opposition in 1904, but a sort of alliance was maintained with the remnants of the See-Lyne party. But Coalition Governments were no longer the ambition of the Party. The example of Kidston was a warning against that, while Labourites reasonably expected soon to attain a direct Labour Government which they supposed would give effect to a large portion of Labour's ideals. Accordingly the 1906 Conference resolved “that in future Labour should not enter into any alliance with another Parliamentary Party extending beyond the existing Parliament or promise immunity at election time.” This encroached on the functions usually left to Caucus, but Conference feared lest the prospect of escaping three-cornered contests, if immunity were granted to sitting Labourites in return for a similar concession to members of some other party, might prove so alluring to the politicians that they would sacrifice the best interests of the Movement as a whole to their personal advantage. Therefore H. Lamond said that if it was necessary to depart from the principle thus laid down the decision should rest with the leagues and not with the Labour Members, who were personally interested in the matter. On the other hand, it was argued that “if the Party could not trust men like Watson, Hughes and others – well, they had no right to send them into Parliament.” The men on the spot with their fingers on the pulse of the electorates were in a better position to decide what measures were likely to further the progress of the Movement.1
The decision of Conference was not accepted quietly by the politicians. They found a way of subverting it by their influence on the Executive. In the State elections of 1908 Mr. Cameron, who had been selected to contest the Annandale seat in the Labour interest, was asked to stand down at the last moment at the instigation of Holman. In defence of this action at the 1908 Conference, the latter explained, that by granting immunity to the See-Lyne candidate for that seat, Labour got a clear run for five other seats in Sydney and his explanation was accepted. Nevertheless, at a subsequent session it was resolved that in future every seat should be contested. This had the effect of denying all discretionary powers to the Executive in the matter of granting immunity. In support of the resolution Arthur Rae (A.W.U.) said:
“If you entrust this question to the Executive when there are a number of members of Parliament on that body who see before them the glittering rays of office, there is a strong temptation in their way to do things which a calm, cool body like Conference might not sanction. Some of the Executive have indulged in an amount of wire-pulling that is calculated to do harm to the general principles of the Movement.” 2
As a safeguard against the subversion of Conference decisions by political influence on the Executive it has been proposed to exclude parliamentarians from that body. In Queensland there is a rule which prevents members of Parliament occupying a majority of places on the Executive, and a move in this direction was made in N.S.W. at the 1910 Conference. Lynch then moved that all members of Parliament returned by a P.L.L. be eliminated from the Executive. He contended that it was an anomaly that State Labour Members should be represented on a body that was practically there to control them. However, the motion was defeated. A similar motion was, however, adopted by the 1916 Conference. By that time, as we shall shortly see, the unionists in the Party had been thoroughly sickened by the failure of the Holman Government to carry out the platform of the Movement and had organised to capture Conference. The motion emanated from J. Cullinan, of the Western Branch of the A.W.U., and speaking to the motion Arthur Blakeley, A.W.U., remarked that:
“After twelve months' experience on the Executive, I am of the opinion that it is impossible for men to sit on the Executive, meet a politician and speak with him without being influenced by him. If we are going to let our servants review their own work we are not going to get very good work.”
Another delegate argued that members of Parliament were there to pass legislation, yet, instead of being their servants, they claimed to dictate to the Labour Movement.
Before, however, describing this crisis, it will be best to recount the steps by which the growing hostility between the rank and file to the dominant personalities in the State Parliamentary Party became manifest. During 1909 McGowen and Holman differed violently from the Federal Party on the subject of the “Financial Agreement” between the States and the Commonwealth, and went so far as openly to oppose the views of the Federal Party during the campaign. For this they were hotly criticised at the 1910 Conference which supported the Federal Party.1 Two years later, when both the State and Federal Parties were occupying the Treasury Benches, a dispute between the two parties brought the recently-formed State Ministry into open conflict with the governing body of the Movement.
The Federal Labour Government, led by Fisher, found the powers allowed to the Commonwealth under the Constitution insufficient to give effect to vital principles in the Federal Labour platform, particularly the “New Protection” and the control of monopolies. To meet this impasse they decided to ask the people to extend their powers over commercial and industrial matters at the expense of the States' powers by a referendum. The proposals were submitted to the 1911 Labour Conference by Hughes, the Federal Attorney-General. The majority of the newly-elected State Ministry were not anxious to see a large slice of their recently-acquired power taken out of their hands and transferred to their Federal confrères. Holman, in particular, was too jealous to allow his rival Hughes to snatch from his grasp a jot of his lately-won prestige and influence. He stoutly opposed the proposals of the Federal Ministers, and argued that, after all the time and money spent on getting Labour into office in N.S.W., the Ministry should be given a chance. However Conference was against him, and, true to the unificationist tendencies of the Movement, approved the referenda proposals by an overwhelming majority at the close of a protracted and acrimonious debate.
In the light of the pronounced hostility of Ministers A. Rae moved on behalf of the A.W.U. :
“That Conference's decision in regard to the Referenda proposals requires that State Labour Ministers and members should at once cease their opposition, or resign from the Movement.”
To this R. D. Meagher, M.L.A., moved as an amendment:
“That Conference, having overwhelmingly declared in favour of the Referenda, is prepared to trust to the loyalty of Labour members thereon.”
In the course of the debate, which was held in camera, Holman stated:
“In view of the overwhelming decision arrived at, I desire to say on behalf of myself and my colleagues that we will withdraw any opposition, and fall into line behind the proposals.”
In view of this assurance Meagher's amendment was carried. But Holman did not really give in so readily. On the following Saturday, when Conference was beginning to peter out, and most of the A.W.U. delegates were absent, he came down with a series of resolutions, having as their logical outcome the reversal of the previous decision. He first secured the passage of a motion :
“That Conference reaffirms the necessity of reconstituting the Inter-State Conference on a population basis.”
Next he moved:
“That the next Federal platform should be drawn up by such an Inter-State Conference, and that the Conference elected on the present basis should confine its labours to effecting such a reconstitution.”
This passed by 125 votes to 115, and Holman then proposed:
“That the Labour Movement oppose all further extension of the powers of the Federal Parliament until the Constitution has been remodelled on lines which secure Parliamentary supremacy (i.e., either by abolishing or so reconstituting the Senate that the States should be represented there in proportion to their populations).
This proposition aroused a storm of opposition, and Conference adjourned till the following Monday. That morning the Annual Convention of the A.W.U. suspended its business to resolve :
“That this Conference of the A.W.U. indignantly resents the traitorous attitude of Mr. W. A. Holman, M.L.A., in his latest attempt to trick the P.L.L. Conference into opposing the Federal Referenda, after signifying his readiness to obey the former decisions of Conference. His motion is a distinct breach of faith, and proves conclusively that he is determined to do the work of Mr. Wade and other reactionaries. Further, this Conference is of opinion that Mr. Holman should be at once required by the P.L.L. to withdraw from the Political Labour Movement and fight it outside and not from within.”
Copies of this resolution were distributed among delegates when the P.L.L. Conference resumed that evening. Lamond, of the A.W.U., was now in the chair, and he ruled Holman's third proposition out of order, and his second resolution was rescinded by 129 votes to 82 – a bitter lesson in discipline to the Deputy-head of the State. But Conference recognised the gifts of leadership possessed by Holman too well to act on the last paragraph of the A.W.U. resolution.1
When the referenda campaign was opened the majority of the State Ministers kept ostentatiously quiet. The Premier was in England, but Holman and most of his colleagues retired to the expensive tourist-resort of Mt. Kosciusko. Beeby, on the other hand, announced in his own electorate that he intended to vote against the Federal Government's proposals. Of the members of Cabinet, only Carmichael and Trefle bowed to the will of Conference, and spoke in favour of the constitutional alterations, and that only in a belated and halfhearted manner. The passive resistance of leading Ministers came in for some stinging criticisms in the columns of the Worker, the only Labour paper in N.S.W., controlled by the A.W.U.
“There are times,” it wrote, “when silence is more weighty than speech, and the silence of men who should have been speaking for Labour, is the keenest weapon used against us in this campaign. Mr. Holman and his followers may pose as passive resisters, but are in reality in the forefront of the Tory campaign.”
On Beeby's declaration of hostility it was even more severe. The leader was headed “THE BACKSLIDING OF BEEBY.” The article went on to describe his attitude as
“a challenge to organised Labour. This can only be ignored by those who are prepared to sacrifice that solidarity without which the Labour Party would soon be reduced to impotence.” 2
The Executive took a serious view of the situation, and called a special Conference to consider the attitude of the State Labour members.
The Special Conference met late in August, and the substantative motion was:
“That any member of Parliament, who by omission or commission has opposed the Referendum, be censured by Conference for disloyalty.”
To this an A.W.U. delegate moved an amendment that Holman, Beeby and Page be expelled as traitors. Both motions were, however, felt to be too strong, in view of the political situation at the moment; for the State Government was still in the throes of the crisis caused by the resignations of Horne and Dunn. Hughes therefore proposed the following :
“That in order to preserve the solidarity of the Labour Movement, Conference decides that the sole right of interpreting the planks of the Federal and State platforms rests with Conference, but that until Conference has exercised its right, this power rests with the Federal and State Parties.”
In the course of his speech, he laid down two principles of tremendous importance in the future evolution of the Movement. He argued:
(1)” That the Movement as a whole should control the actions, and, if necessary, the speeches of members of it. The repression of individual will involved did not concern them because no one was bound to come into the Movement or forced to remain in it.
(2)” To require men to adhere to certain planks involved that they should know what those planks meant. Conference was vested with the power not only of creating, but also of interpreting the platform. Every member of the Movement had to accept that interpretation.”
In the end, however, a non-committal resolution was carried to the effect that
“in future the Executive shall not endorse as Labour candidates any person who at a referendum opposes or fails to support proposals submitted to the people by the Federal or State Labour Parties, provided that such proposals must first have been endorsed by an InterState or N.S.W. Conference.” 1
The comparative lenience shown by the Special Conference was hardly justified in the sequel. The same propositions were again submitted to the people by the Federal Labour Government in May, 1913. Before the campaign Holman took a trip to Japan. Beeby resigned from the Labour Party, Parliament and the Cabinet, in order to oppose the referenda; and Page, M.L.A., did oppose them without, however, resigning from the Party. In the by-election, rendered necessary by his resignation, Beeby ran again as an independent for his old seat Blayney, and received the secret support of his former colleagues. The election was held under the second ballot system. In the first ballot, Ministers of the State Labour Government gave little support to the selected Labour candidate. In the words of the Worker:2
“Ministers were almost as busy outside the Blayney electorate as they had been within the Mudgee electorate when Beeby's brother Dunn was being ministerially whitewashed.”
This leader was headed,
“LABOUR BETRAYED BY THE GOVERNMENT.”
The Labourite alone was eliminated at the first ballot, and a second was necessary to decide between Beeby and the “Liberal” Ministers now showed their hands. They issued a strongly worded manifesto recommending the Labourites in the electorate to vote for Beeby. The Executive issued a counter-recommendation advising all Labour supporters to abstain from giving Beeby any support in the second ballot, “in view of his declared opposition to vital principles of the Labour Movement.” Yet Beeby was returned, and his vote kept the Labour Ministry in office for a few months, enabling it to choose a favourable time for an appeal to the country. This the Worker called “relying on a Labour black-leg for a few months more of office.”
Page was refused endorsement for the Botany seat by the Executive when the next elections came round at the end of the year. He left the Party, which lost the seat. The matter was discussed in connection with the Executive's report at the 1914 Conference. Holman, now re-elected Premier with a large majority, warmly defended Page. Many, he continued, did not believe in the referenda in their entirety. “Do you,” he asked, “expect those to go on the platform and make public liars of themselves?” “You ought to have got out like Beeby,” interjected a delegate. “There would have been many of us,” replied the Premier, “who would have had to get out, and many in the Movement who wanted to get us out so that they might take our places.” 1
Probably there was a good deal of truth in the Premier's retort.
The disputes between the State members and the Party organisation on the questions at issue between the State and Federal Parties have been described at some length, because they serve to illustrate the relative immunity with which the politicians could defy the clearly expressed will of the bulk of their supporters and their persistence in so doing in spite of the decisions of Conference. That body showed itself powerless to enforce its determinations. The only weapon it possessed was the refusal of endorsement, and when that was applied in the case of Page it recoiled upon the Party, as he won the seat against Labour instead of for it. Even more hopeless seemed the attempts of the governing organs of the Movement to compel the Parliamentary Party to carry out the planks of the platform on which they had been elected when the Party had at length reached the longed-for goal of Ministerial responsibility. Great things were naturally expected of the Labour Government. Ministers, on the other hand, did not seem eager to set about putting the platform on the Statute Book. Perhaps their supporters did not appreciate the difficulties that confronted their representatives, but they certainly had cause to be disappointed.
The question of land nationalisation and the abolition of freehold played a prominent part in the earlier stages of the process by which the rank and file were disillusioned. As noted above, this plank in the Labour platform was very unpopular among the farming constituencies, and therefore Labour candidates for such electorates did their best to hide the plank. Even at the 1909 Conference notice had to be taken of statements by two Labour Members to the effect that they did not believe in land nationalisation.1 The 1911 Conference reaffirmed the plank, and, as if to emphasise its insistence on the question, A. Rae proposed to censure the new Minister for Lands, Neilson, for proceeding with the sale of Crown Lands at Maroubra. The Minister explained that the lands in question had been already offered for sale before he assumed office, and his explanation was accepted. Indeed, as soon as he entered upon the duties of his department, he had published a minute prohibiting further sales of Crown Lands.
The resignations of Horne and Dunn in the same year, however, as a protest against the same Minister's strict interpretation of the plank as it applied to the Conversion Act, put a new complexion upon the situation. As we have remarked, those resignations were the outcome of a revolt of the representatives of agricultural constituencies against Neilson's scrupulous adherence to the spirit of the Labour platform. In order to save their majority in the House, Cabinet repudiated Neilson, and with him a fragment of the Labour platform. They forced Neilson to resign, and then persuaded the Executive to re-select Dunn to contest again his old seat (there was no time to hold a plebiscite). This action was thus described by the Worker:
“In order to win these seats, the Party has brought itself into line with traitors and even adopted one of these traitors as its representative. The Executive has been practically superseded by the State Party by whom the selections have been controlled.”
At the 1913 Conference Lestrange (A.W.U.) moved to express disapproval of the action of the Executive in re-selecting Dunn for Mudgee. Holman admitted the charge of having interfered with the Executive's function, and personally assumed full responsibility for the selection. But he denied that Dunn had ratted. The repeal of the Conversion Act was not on the platform, and in any case Neilson's interpretation of repeal was not necessarily the right one. The Government, he continued, could not help the feeling in the country against leasehold. Dunn was the only man who could have won the seat, and he had saved the Government and therewith the Redistribution Act (which would give Labour a better chance of adequate representation at the next election). The latter arguments were no doubt right, but they were cynically opportunist, and did not meet with the approval of Conference which adopted Lestrange's motion.1
Undeterred by this adverse vote, the politicians during the next session not only neglected to do much towards putting the Labour platform on the Statute Book, but also flatly defied two other planks of their fighting platform – Abolition of the Legislative Council and State Iron and Steel Works. Conference had adopted a “suicide pledge” to be signed by all Labour nominees to the Upper House (i.e., that they would strive and vote for the abolition of the Chamber to which they were appointed). But when the Government made ten appointments to that House, it was found that only four had been required to sign the pledge. Some of the appointees were not Labour members at all, though there were plenty of men who had worked for the Party, without reward for years, who were entitled to seats in the Council. Secondly, Cabinet stultified Plank 6 (State Ironworks), by concluding an agreement with the B.H.P. Co., ceding them for a nominal consideration a valuable water frontage at Newcastle, on which to build a private iron and steel works. The Bill ratifying this agreement had not even been submitted to Caucus when it was introduced.
Both these matters received the attention of the 1913 Conference. It decided by a ten to one majority “that the action of the McGowen Ministry in appointing other than pledged Labour men to the Legislative Council was contrary to the spirit of the P.L.L. constitution and detrimental to the Party.” Carmichael, who apologised on behalf of the Government, said that there were some things that the Government had to take into their own hands. “As far as they knew,” several of the nominees objected to were members of leagues. The appointment of the Lord Mayor of Sydney – Sir Allen Taylor, a bitter Conservative – was a long established usage that outweighed Party considerations. In reply J. J. Talbot asked “Why Ministers did not stand up like men and say, 'We gave them seats for payments received.' The public knew that.” It was true that several of the unpledged appointees were men of considerable wealth, while Taylor, in addition, was supposed to have been associated with the Minister for Works in an allegedly corrupt transaction – the purchase of a site for State Timber Works. These circumstances suggested a similarity between these appointments of persons to the Council with the title “Honourable” and a gold-pass for life, and the award of honours for services to the Party under the English system. The B.H.P. steel works deal was also condemned as a violation of Plank 6. Hughes warned delegates that it would mean the establishment of a monopoly – the very thing the Labour Party was fighting. McGowen confessed that the Bill had been tabled without Caucus being consulted. The only reply that the Minister for Works had to offer was that it was a question between the B.H.P. steel works or none at all. The Government could not get money to establish works of their own. The adverse vote was carried by 104 votes to 42. These remonstrances had no immediate effect, but before the elections, which were due at the end of the year, the old Premier, with his twenty years of service to the Movement in Parliament, retired from the leadership to make room for the ambitious young Attorney-General, W. A. Holman. This was a concession to the general dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Party with the do-nothing policy of the McGowen Cabinet. It was reasonably hoped that the young and supposedly advanced Holman would display more zeal and energy. Thus McGowen was made to shoulder the blame for his Government's obvious shortcomings. This change was the more necessary, since the old Premier had inflamed the feelings of unionists by issuing a proclamation calling for volunteers to work the retorts during the gas strike of 1913.
The apparent triumph of Conference was, however, deceptive. Although returned to power with a substantial majority, which gave it no excuse for inaction, at the elections of December, 1913, the new Government did nothing more than its predecessor. Parliament took a long recess at the beginning of 1914, and then, with the outbreak of the European war, the Premier announced a Party truce and the abandonment of contentious legislation. This attitude did not meet with approval of the Party outside. While entirely loyal to the Empire the bulk of the Labour Movement did not realise the gravity of the situation as vividly as its leaders did, not being exposed to the same influences as they were. It wanted labour legislation and saw no reason for its postponement because of events at the other end of the world. The Ministers, on the other hand, felt the full pressure of imperial propaganda and took an alarmist view of the financial situation. Moreover, the Party strongly disapproved of the Government's action in signing a contract with the Norton-Griffiths Company for the execution of public works. The Labour policy was the elimination of the middleman, and the carrying out of such work by the Government direct with “day labour.”
Hence, the 1915 Conference proposed to censure the Government for “their absolute failure or refusal to carry out Planks 1(Abolition of the Legislative Council), 4 (Day Labour), and 6 (State Ironworks) of their Fighting Platform ; and their pre-election promises – Fair Rents Courts and the extension of the State Housing Scheme.” The opposition was confident, and had brought Hughes up from Melbourne to denounce as financially unsound the Norton-Griffiths contract. But Holman had carefully organised to defeat his critics. His replies were uncompromising. He dwelt on the danger of a financial crisis, involving the complete suspension of industry and general unemployment. “Who,” he asked, “in such straits would tinker with Arbitrations Bills?” As to the Upper House, he had promised three seats, but he thought that two of his nominees would sign the pledge. The Movement was under an obligation. It was no use attacking that Chamber unless they caught it red-handed. The contract with Norton-Griffiths provided for the financing of public works at a time when loan money was unobtainable. The company was committed to a large annual expenditure, and this would provide work for a number of men and keep down unemployment which otherwise would have been terrific. The day-labour principle was retained under the terms of the contract. The Government engaged the workmen and supervised the execution of the works. In conclusion he castigated the Worker for its disloyal carping criticism, and attacked the A.W.U. Many bitter things were said in reply. The Premier was told that he had no right to promise seats in the Council without consulting the Party, and could not put the Movement under any obligation. Even his own parliamentary colleagues contributed to the attack, and in so doing summed up the position rather acutely. J. Dooley said “Holman's promise was a scrap of paper, or else the platform was.” Stuart-Robertson remarked that a motion might as well be carried to “hand the Movement over to W. A. Holman to do what he liked with.” Yet, thanks to Holman's preparatory organisation, the no-confidence motions were defeated by large majorities.1
The result of the Conference had therefore been only to emphasise the disregard of the Government to the wishes of the Party. They only showed a slight amendment during the following year. The House sat for long hours, and did pass a Fair Rents Bill, but the Council remained defiant and even rejected an urgent Bill to enable the Government to establish a system of bulk-handling for grain without further delay, thus providing the very chance of “catching them redhanded” that Holman had postulated at Conference. Yet no move was made for its abolition. J. D. Fitzgerald, the President of the P.L.L., who had been one of the Government's most severe critics at Conference, was the only fresh appointment to that Chamber. He was given a portfolio, but this step was looked upon as an attempt to stifle criticism by corrupting the critic. Accordingly an attack was very carefully organised by the industrialists in preparation for the next Conference. The failure to deal with the Council was selected as the point of attack.
The 1916 Conference marks the culmination of the struggle of the Labour Movement to exercise an effective control over its political representatives. It was also the occasion for the emergence of a new force in the Party organisation, the banding together of the unionist backbone of the Party into the Industrial Section – a phenomenon to which the next chapter will be mainly devoted. At this Conference even Holman was forced to recognise the supremacy of the extra-parliamentary machinery. The industrialist section of the Party were clamouring for industrial legislation which had been scandalously neglected by the Holman Government, but every one was heartily tired of their dalliance with the Upper House. The first step of the sectionalists was to capture a majority of places on the Executive by means of a ticket. They also secured that Conference should sit only at night, so that city toilers should be able to attend, though country delegates might cool their heels all day. Then they got to work. On April 26th J. Bailey, Vice-President of the A.W.U., moved:
“That the Holman Government be severely censured for refusing to endeavour to carry out the first plank of the Labour platform-Abolition of the Upper House.”
The debate traversed every phase of the Government's policy. “The Council,” said Lamond (A.W.U.), “has too long been an excuse for men who do not want to give us what we want.” Blakeley declared that if they could not get what they wanted from the Government, the industrialists would form a party of their own. Holman at first failed to realise the strength of the forces against him and trusted to his superiority as an intriguer. He could not imagine that the unionists should not prefer a Labour Government of whatever kind to a Tory one. In his speech he began by pointing out that an election was due in eight or nine months' time, and that the Government was getting unpopular as any Government must in war time. Next he stressed the importance of having a Labour Government in office to meet the situation which would arise on the outbreak of peace; the army would be demobilised, emigrants would stream in, unemployment would undermine the positions of the unions. “I am the only man in Conference,” he added, “who tries to concentrate his mind on how political power is to be obtained.” Then he pointed out that an appeal on the sole issue of abolishing the Council would be fatal. The Verran Labour Government in South Australia had done that in 1912, and had been routed. He would not fight the next election with fetters on like that. The Ministry had done its best. If Conference was dissatisfied he would be only too glad to be relieved of the burden of leadership. Conference made it quite plain that it was still dissatisfied. The censure motion passed by 105 to 68. After consulting with Cabinet and Caucus, Holman eventually placed his resignation in the hands of the Parliamentary Party. Whether this was “bluff” or not, it was an epoch-making event, and showed unmistakable recognition of the mastery of the Party as a whole. That the Premier should resign not to the Governor, but to Caucus, and at the behest not of Parliament, but of an outside body, formed an interesting constitutional precedent.
Caucus sent a deputation led by John Storey, and including other well-known critics of the Ministry, to Conference with the following resolutions :
“Caucus is of opinion that the vote of censure affects the Parliamentary Labour Party as a whole, and that therefore it would be illogical and improper for Caucus to accept the resignation of the Government.”
If the Government had been of a jelly-fish character in not putting proper legislation through, he and others of the Party were just as lax as the Ministry, argued Storey. He went on to ask for directions in view of the intention now announced by the Government, to force democratic measures upon the Upper House. Conference insisted, however, that steps should be taken for the complete abolition of the Council. Thereupon Caucus accepted the resignation of the Government, and elected John Storey leader. While, however, he was deliberating upon the formation of his Ministry, Arthur Griffiths, Minister for Works under Holman, was rolling logs at the Conference, and persuaded the leaders of the industrialists to be content with the victory they had attained. When Storey returned to report the decisions of Caucus, T. Mutch moved “that while Conference thanked Caucus for its willingness to form a Ministry, it is desirous of avoiding the resignation of the Government at this juncture, and invites Mr. Holman to inform Conference how far they could go.” Holman then came back. He told Conference that he would be delighted to take a referendum on the question of abolishing the Council. He would loyally support Mr. Storey, but if the Movement desired his continuance in the position of leader, he would expect from them loyal co-operation, not carping criticism. He added:
“I am not prepared to admit that parliamentary matters can be left to anybody but ourselves. You lay down the policy you wish us to carry out; once we are in power as representatives of the people, our function begins.”
This was a very softened retreat, but the last paragraph was essential for show purposes as the cry that Labour members are not representatives of the people but the tools of an irresponsible junta at the Trades Hall, always raised by the anti-Labour forces, would be serious if given confirmation. At any rate Conference accepted the position, and resolved, on the motion of J. Doyle, that it did not want the Government to resign, but wanted the platform carried out. Storey withdrew, and so Holman was Premier again.1
His position was, however, very insecure. He had a hostile Executive which was quite ready to refuse him endorsement if he did not do their bidding. They claimed the right to control the Ministry rather closely, wanted to be consulted upon the legislative programme for the session, and actually drafted a Right-to-Work Bill which they expected the Government to introduce. Moreover, the industrialist section in a number of leagues were taking steps to organise with a view to ousting friends of the Premier and running industrialists instead. In this crisis the conscription controversy provided the Ministerialists with an opportunity to leave the Party without risking their seats or portfolios. The Opposition, which had been working the “loyalty stunt” for all they were worth, had no choice but to accept Holman and his colleagues as high-souled patriots when they revolted against the decision of the Executive on this question. As we shall shortly see, they were welcomed by those who had been loudest in denouncing them in the vilest terms and admitted into a Coalition Ministry. By this means the determination of the 1916 Conference was frustrated, and Labour lost its hold on the State Parliament. Small advantage was therefore reaped from the elaborate machinery devised, and it looked as if the whole idea of disciplining and controlling the politicians, to achieve which so many instruments had been devised, must go by the board. But a further discussion of the lessons of the crisis must be deferred until we have examined the circumstances that led up to the conscription split and the relations of the Federal Caucus to the Party as a whole.
Up to the time of the conscription split the Federal Labour Party, both before and after it attained the Treasury benches, had escaped serious criticism from the rank and file. For one thing, it reflected fairly well the sentiments of the majority of Australian Labourites. Moreover, when Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister, the Federal Government seems to have tried sincerely to give effect to its platform. In fact, the first Fisher Ministry that lasted more than a couple of months succeeded in carrying out the whole programme laid down for it. But that programme was more moderate in extent and less controversial in character than those of the State Parties. Socialism played a smaller part in it because the Federal “State” had few “industrial and economic functions” which could be extended, while those activities which made for “the encouragement of Australian sentiment” were more widely endorsed. The constitutional limitations placed upon the powers of the Federal Parliament precluded that body giving effect to the more Socialistic parts of the Labour programme. The interpretative powers of the High Court provided Commonwealth politicians with much the same sort of excuse as the direct obstruction of the Legislative Councils gave State members, for not putting on the Statute Book any very revolutionary legislation. Then, the Federal sphere is remote from the every day lives of unionists, and therefore attracts less attention at league and union meetings. Finally, the Inter-State Conference, which is the only body which can claim to control the Federal members, generally consists itself mainly of politicians as their railpasses enable them to cover the long distances between the capital cities without incurring additional expense to the organisation.
Yet a few rumblings of discontent made themselves heard at the Adelaide Conference of 1915. A motion from the Victorian P.L.C. conference was there submitted, protesting against the administration of the policy of preference to unionists. It was stated that the manner in which the policy was being carried out was unsatisfactory. Men were joining unions to go to Federal jobs, while old unionists of long standing were being passed over. Moreover, one of the Labour Ministers had shown too little courtesy to deputations from the unions on the subject. Fisher, however, succeeded in laying the blame on unsympathetic permanent officials who had been appointed by Labour's opponents. Hughes warned the unions not to rely too much upon spoon-feeding. His organisation had been able to demand preference by its industrial strength. Eventually the motion was withdrawn.
When, however, Fisher went to the High Commissionership in London a change came over the scene. No sooner had he resigned than his successor, Hughes, announced a change of policy. The Adelaide Conference had determined that the questions as to the extension of the Commonwealth's powers, which had been twice rejected by the people, should be re-submitted forthwith. The necessary legislation had been passed through Parliament, and all was in trim for the campaign when Hughes came to an agreement with the States that they should voluntarily hand over the requisite powers for the period of the war. The referendum was therefore called off. This action was severely criticised by the N.S.W. and Victorian State Conferences, and a meeting of the Federal Executive was called together in Melbourne. This body, in the absence of the Prime Minister, carried a condemnatory resolution, but after he had a few words in private with some of the delegates the resolution was rescinded.1
The Federal Ministers took a view of the war that was over the head of the average labourite. This fact ultimately led to the most serious crisis in the whole history of the Australian Labour Movement. To the official leaders of Labour winning the war appeared to be of such paramount importance that all other matter seemed negligible. That was not the view of the average worker. Apart from the minority of logically minded socialists who opposed the war altogether, the rank and file were genuinely anxious that the Allies should triumph. But they did not feel that anxiety as such an obsession that they gave up all thought about what sort of a world it should be that was to “be made safe for democracy.” They were not prepared to relinquish advantages already won or to abandon the struggle to make conditions better not only for themselves, but also for those who had gone overseas to fight for democracy. Therefore, though most workers did not agree with the internationalist sentiments expressed by members of the I.W.W., they did not like to see any members of the working class gaoled by the Labour Government merely for saying what they thought. Yet the Federal Government was using the censorship and the War Precautions Act against the Melbourne Socialist and Ross's, and Tom Barker had been gaoled several times for “prejudicing recruiting” along with several other members of the I.W.W. and similar organisations. Such actions, added to the tendency of Ministers to “go slow” with social reform on the pretext of winning the war, had engendered a widespread feeling of suspicion.
Into such an atmosphere Hughes flung the torch of conscription, and in a moment split the Movement from top to bottom. Yet he had had ample warning. Industrialists looked with such distrust on the War Census Act – the Australian counterpart of the National Registration Act, which, however, required particulars as to wealth and so could have been used for conscription of wealth as well as of life – that they had deliberately allowed Fisher's old seat of Wide Bay to go to the Opposition. In four of the States the Party Conferences had declared against conscription in emphatic terms, and by overwhelming majorities. The decisions of the organs of the political movement, had been backed up or prompted by resolutions of the Annual Convention of the A.W.U., the Labour Councils in all the States and a special Inter-colonial Trade Union Congress in Melbourne in March, 1916. In defiance of the plainest possible indications of the will of the Movement which had put him in office, Hughes on his return from England in August, 1916, declared for the hated policy. In this he had the support of all the Tories and of not a few democrats and Labourites who believed that universal service was juster and more democratic than voluntarism, which was often economic conscription under another name. And there were not wanting indications that compulsory service might be less unpopular with the workers than the decisions of Conferences and Congresses seemed to indicate. Anti-conscription meetings in Sydney Domain and on the Yarra Bank in Melbourne had been broken up by mobs.
So in September Hughes decided to submit the question to a referendum, and secured the permission of the Federal Caucus to do so. The only effective protest was made by Frank Tudor, who resigned his portfolio. But the Prime Minister failed to secure the endorsement of the State Executives for his views. The N.S.W. Executive heard Hughes state his case at a special meeting on September 4th, and resolved by 21 votes to 5 to uphold the decisions of the State Conference, and require uncompromising opposition from members. The Queensland C.P.E. came to the same decision and condemned the Prime Minister on the 5th.
The other States, except Western Australia, followed suit. The decisions of the State Conferences demanded from members of the Party positive opposition to compulsion, and laid down, as the penalty for disobedience, expulsion from the Movement. The decisions of the Executives showed that they intended that the machinery of the Party should be used to secure the defeat of the proposals to be submitted to the people. But the attitude of the parliamentarians was doubtful. In the Federal Parliament only a handful resisted Hughes from the first. Others who had been in favour at least of a referendum, only changed over under pressure from the leagues in their electorates. In the Representatives only, Burns, Catts, and Mahony, all N.S.W. members, voted against the Bill for the submission of the question to the people. The N.S.W. Caucus declared in favour of a referendum provided freedom of discussion was allowed by the censor. The Premier and most of his Ministers were known to favour the Prime Minister's proposals. The Queensland Party on September 11th decided to oppose the referendum. It was notorious that the Party was by no means unanimous on the topic. Several Ministers were undoubtedly conscriptionists, but the lesson of the Kidston split had not been lost upon Caucus. The recent speech of the Minister for justice, J. Fihelly, in which he referred to England as “a land of cant, hypocrisy, and humbug,” had ruled out all hope of a coalition with the Opposition. Accordingly, while Ministers there had been subjected to the same pro-war influences as in other States and the Commonwealth, and though Cabinet included equally dominating personalities, they loyally subordinated their own opinions to the dictates of the Movement and took the stump against conscription. One member alone, John Adamson, refused to abide by this decision and left the Party. He was subsequently rewarded for his treachery by a testimonial of £1,000 got up by the Tories.
In the Southern States and the Commonwealth matters took a different course. Hughes and his colleagues continued in defiance of the Conferences and Executives to advocate an affirmative vote on the question they were propounding. They had the support of the majority in the State Parties. Then the N.S.W. and Queensland Executives took a decisive step. The latter announced on the 13th that endorsement would not be given to the candidature of any member of the House of Representatives or the Senate who did not vote against the passage of the Conscription Referendum Bill. On the 15th the N.S.W. Executive expelled Hughes and Carr, Ms.H.R., for their defiance of the Conference decisions against conscription. At the same time they withdrew the endorsement for the candidature of Holman and three other members of the State Party at the forthcoming elections. The remaining members of the Party were examined by circular, and where they did not promise their services in the no-conscription cause, they were similarly dealt with. This determined stand was only partially effective. Holman and nearly all his Cabinet colleagues revolted, and were therefore expelled by the rump of Caucus, and Durack was elected leader in place of Holman. The rebels afterwards coalesced with the Tories. Those whose seats were hopeless were rewarded with Government billets, and Labour was left in a hopeless minority.
The position of the Federal members was somewhat complicated. Defence is a Federal question, and the defence policy of the Labour Party is therefore determined by the Inter-State Conference. No such Conference had been held since conscription was mooted. Both N.S.W. and Queensland had demanded a gathering after the Prime Minister made his announcement in the beginning of September, but he pushed matters on so fast that it was too late to call such a Conference. Not even the Federal Executive could be got together. So there was no decision of the Federal authority in the Party on conscription. Hughes and his colleagues denied the right of the N.S.W. Executive to expel them, and they were right technically. They also contended that they had broken no plank or rule of the Party. Here they were on slippery ground. Hughes had himself argued in 1911 that Conference not only created, but also interpreted the platform, and the majority of State Conferences had exercised the right. On the question of the extension of Commonwealth powers obedience to the decision of either a Federal or State Conference had been laid down as binding, and Hughes was responsible for that decision. It left, at any rate, no doubt as to the subordination of State members to the rulings of their own State Conference. Probably all the State Executive could constitutionally do to Hughes was to refuse him endorsement when the next election came round. Even loyal Labourites in the Commonwealth Parliament, such as Tudor, who would not remain in the Cabinet when he felt obliged to oppose publicly his chief's policy, still recognised Hughes and his colleagues as members of Caucus. Three other Ministers, Higgs, Gardiner, and Russell, who only left the Cabinet on the eve of the vote as a protest against the interference with the secrecy of the ballot by a W.P.A. Regulation, were allowed to remain in the Party. Even when Parliament re-assembled after the defeat of the referendum, Hughes was admitted to Caucus, but a vote of no-confidence was at once moved in order to bring the Prime Minister to his knees. Hughes would not tolerate dictation. Without waiting for the vote he marched dramatically out of the Party room, summoning his fellow conscriptionists to follow him. He was then formally expelled, and Tudor elected leader in his place.
There is no doubt that his fellow-members would have been prepared to heal the breach if Hughes had cared to eat humble pie. As it was, by forming a new Party under the name of the “National Labour Party,” he and his friends put themselves outside the pale. They were now expelled from Caucus, and in most cases banned by the State Executives, so that they could not run again as Labour candidates. They were not, however, outside the Labour Party beyond all question. To further complicate the position, the Party in West Australia had agreed to give its members a free hand on conscription.
To straighten out this tangle a special Inter-State Conference met in Melbourne on December 4th. At the outset this gathering was confronted with the difficulty that the Westralians, still recognising conscriptionists as Labour men, had actually sent as a delegate Senator Lynch, who had been rewarded for his perfidy with one of the vacant portfolios in the Hughes Cabinet. As he was a member of a party actually opposing the Federal Labour Party, his position was most anomalous. He was allowed to take his seat. But after the passage of the main resolution
“That as compulsory overseas military service is contrary to the principles embodied in the A.L.P. platform, all Federal members who have supported compulsory overseas military service, or who are members of any other political party, are hereby expelled from the Australian Labour Movement,”
he was asked to leave. It was felt to be improper for a member of an opposing party to participate further in the deliberations of Conference. Two of his fellow delegates from the West also left in protest against the partial disenfranchisement of their State. Still the Special Conference legitimatised the acts of the State Executives in respect of conscription. The Perth Conference of 1918 finally made opposition to conscription a plank of the platform and pronounced a decree of perpetual ostracism against conscriptionists.
On the conscription issue the workers had been once again betrayed by their political leaders, who had defied the will of the Movement and sought to dictate to their supporters. As a consequence very many of Labour's most trusted and influential guides went over to the anti-Labour ranks. Labour was left in a minority in the Federal and State Parliaments except in Queensland, and with only the less honest or less able of its former chiefs to guide its policy in the Chambers. Those leaders, on the other hand, who refused allegiance to the policy of the Movement, were rewarded by Labour's enemies with continuance in office or lucrative positions. Yet conscription was decisively defeated and the organisation of the Party was preserved intact and pure. The great principle of the supremacy of the whole Movement over any individual, however powerful, was again vindicated conclusively. It is no longer possible for any political leader to imagine that he can run counter to the decisively expressed will of the majority of the Party and yet enjoy the benefits of its support. Most of the old Labour stalwarts, who earned the name of “rat” at this time, have since been eliminated from political life. Even at the “khaki elections” of 1917 McGowen, Cann, Griffiths, Black and Hoyle lost their seats in N.S.W., and Hughes dare not face the electors of West Sydney who had returned him unopposed for years. In 1920 even Premier Holman was defeated, and of his last Labour Cabinet only Ashford remains in the Assembly. After three Federal elections, all Hughes' ministerial colleagues have been dismissed from political life.
Several important precedents were established by the crisis. Formerly the Executives had only been accustomed to refuse endorsement to candidates who had definitely violated the platform or broken their pledge to abide by Caucus decisions. In this instance the Executives had interpreted the platform under the guidance of Conference and had anticipated the actions of Caucus, and, in fact, determined them by means of expulsions. In this their actions were endorsed by Conference and their right to review and determine the interpretations of the platform by Caucus had thereby been established. The penalty was not confined to Members of Parliament. Private individuals in the Party suffered the same fate and leagues were declared “bogus.” That has made the Executives the arbiters of Labour orthodoxy, armed with the power to expel members of the Party for what they consider heresy. Thus a number of Labourites were expelled in N.S.W. during 1919 for supporting the “break-away Socialists,” though they had not supported the latter to the extent of joining the new party they sought to form. Higgs, M.H.R., was similarly dealt with for supporting the constitutional proposals of the Prime Minister contrary to the decisions of the 1919 Federal Conference.
The results of the conscription split have not, however, solved the problem of the control of the politicians by the rank and file of the Movement. From 1916 to 1919 the industrialist section dominated the Executive in N.S.W., and they were obsessed with the idea of controlling the politicians. They were in many instances Marxian theorists who had no conception of the parliamentary game, and hence were often at loggerheads with the parliamentarians, especially the new leader, Storey. They minutely scrutinised his every utterance and subjected him to a constant criticism which was intensely galling to one in his position. For instance, because at a union picnic he advocated piecework, he was carpeted before the Executive. As we shall see, he was driven to intrigue with the A.W.U. to break down the domination of the section at the 1919 Conference. During the war the main question which exercised the Executive in N.S.W. was peace and the participation of the Party in recruiting. The Perth Conference in July, 1918, decided upon a ballot of all members of the Party on the question of the withdrawal of the Party's support until the Allies had offered peace to Germany on a basis of no annexations and no indemnities. While the ballot was pending the State Executive sought to withdraw Labour members from the recruiting stump. Storey, however, contended that his Party had been elected on promises of whole-hearted support to the Empire on a voluntary basis, and that they were bound by their election pledges. He had nevertheless to give up speaking on the same platform as the Nationalists and promise not to interfere with the plebiscite on the Perth resolutions. On the other hand, nine members of the Federal Party in N.S.W. issued a statement condemning the recommendations of that Conference. A possible split on the recruiting question was averted by the capitulation of Germany before the results of the Labour plebiscite were made known.
In 1919 the Inter-State Conference took a step which encroached upon the prerogatives of the Parliamentary Party. They invited T. J. Ryan to resign the Premiership of Queensland, and enter Federal politics under circumstances which were tantamount to superseding Tudor, the leader elected by Caucus. An invitation to Ryan had been already issued by the State Executives of N.S.W., Queensland, and Tasmania. In October a special Conference was called together in Sydney to reconsider one sole item of business, the decision of the regular Conference on which was challenged by the State Executives – the reduction of the exemption on the Federal Land Tax. Nevertheless, the N.S.W. Executive sprang a resolution on Conference which was not on the agenda: “That this Conference endorse the invitation to the Premier of Queensland to enter the Federal arena.” The members of the Federal Parliament were seriously disturbed by this proposal. Sen. Barnes pointed out that the resolution might be held to reflect upon the present leader, Frank Tudor. Another Victorian delegate stressed this point as follows :
“They were in effect asking Mr. Ryan to be leader instead of Mr. Tudor. They were undermining the solidarity of the Movement. They could not offer the leadership to Mr. Ryan, the only position which would compensate him for sacrificing the Premiership, because that was for the Parliamentary Party.”
Yet not only was the motion of invitation to Ryan carried, but also a further one appointing him “Campaign Director.” Barnes said, apropos of the latter:
“Such a step would make Mr. Ryan a dictator. Where would the Federal Executive and Parliamentary Labour Party be if such a motion were carried? The Federal Party had already taken steps for the conduct of the campaign. Mr. Tudor was the accredited leader until the Federal Caucus displaced him. They all wanted Mr. Ryan in the Federal arena, but it was not for Conference to make him leader.”
J. H. Catts, in reply, denied that it was intended to interfere with Tudor's functions. They wanted to give Mr. Ryan status and freedom to tour Australia. Ryan accepted the position thus offered him. A safe seat was found for him in West Sydney, the selected candidate retiring, and the State Executive selecting the northerner to fill the vacancy. However, Labour was beaten at the polls, and Tudor remained leader in the Commonwealth Parliament, Ryan being elected Deputy-Leader by Caucus.
In N.S.W. the politicians led by Storey and Catts took advantage of a split between the A.W.U. and the rest of the industrial section to drive out the extremists and secure the return of a friendly Executive. The left wing left the Party and the politicians were left to frame the bulk of the platform for the State elections. The attempts to control the politicians were for the time abandoned, but the A.W.U. was left in virtual control of the Executive. This has led, as we shall see in the next chapter to grave abuses, seriously infringing the rights of the members of the Party in the selection of candidates and delegates, and has ultimately left the Party disunited and defeated.
To sum up, then, we may say that that system of control from below adopted by the Labour Party from its inception has been proved necessary by the selfish and cowardly opportunism which has distinguished the workers' parliamentary representatives. As against that disruptive force the machinery of checks and controls has succeeded in maintaining the solidarity and identity of the Party through many crises. But when it comes to a question of forcing a Labour Government to give effect to their platform or realise the ideals they have been sent into Parliament to accomplish, the organisation has broken down. Instead of directing and controlling the activities of the parliamentarians when they have got command of the Treasury Benches, Conferences and Executives and Caucus have only been able to produce revolts and splits which have exposed the workers, enervated by spoon-feeding from Labour Ministries, to the tender mercies of bitterly capitalistic Governments.